ONTARIO — A Canadian man accused of murdering four members of a Muslim family with his vehicle in London, Ontario, has pleaded not guilty.
Nathaniel Veltman, 22, is accused of intentionally targeting the family because of their faith, running them over in 2021.
He has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
Jury selection for the trial has started.
Veltman, 22, stood silently in court, CBC News reports.
His murder charges include terrorism counts, which means prosecutors must prove his actions were premeditated and deliberate but also motivated by a political, religious or ideological cause.
Three generations of the Afzaal family were killed, leaving just one survivor.
Salman Afzaal, 46, and his wife Madiha Salman, 44; their daughter Yumna Afzaal, 15; and Afzaal’s mother Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed while on an evening walk on 6 June 2021. The couple’s nine-year-old son was seriously hurt but survived.
Madiha and Salman had come to Canada from Pakistan for a better future, a relation told the BBC.
Veltman was arrested shortly after the attack in a parking lot close to London’s oldest mosque, where the Afzaal family were devoted members.
The suspect was wearing what appeared to be body armour and a helmet, police said.
The attack sent waves of grief and fear across Canada, as London’s tight-knit Muslim community mourned the loss of a beloved family.
As jury selection began, Abd Alfatah Twakkal, who chairs the London Council of Imams, spoke outside court.
“Tomorrow, September the 6th, 2023, marks exactly 27 months since a horrific tragedy struck the Muslim community in London,” he said.
“Our hope is that we can continue to heal as a community and we’ll achieve some level of closure at the conclusion of this trial.”
The Superior Court trial is expected to last about three months. — BBC